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Published: August 31st 2015
Looking at a Western Cape map, we thought the West Coast looked interesting. The road appeared to hug the coast with little villages perched on the beaches.
We left Cape Town quite late and then got stuck in traffic. We drove north through the city, leaving through the Table View area. Table View is aptly named as the views of the mountain from here are amazing. As we left the city we were aware that the landscape was flattening out and becoming more sandy. The whole area was a huge set of sand dunes. At first the sand held little life, just a few gaunt bushes, sparsely scattered. As we got further north the bushes grew denser and less gaunt. After about 30km they started showing flowers, just a few at first but then more and more. Even with the purple, yellow and orange flowers, the whole area seemed quite bleak and uninviting. We were driving though the West Coast National Park but the only wildlife we saw was a couple of ostriches and a few birds in the sky. Judging from the landscape I wouldn't expect much more, except maybe the occasional bok. To our disappointment, the road did
not afford views of the sea as the dunes were between us and the water.
We were getting hungry when we came across a farm stall. If you have not traveled any distance on the roads of South Africa you probably haven't encountered these wonderful places. Each has it's own character and generally sells it's own unique selection of local products - usually fruit and wine.
We pulled in and the first thing we saw was a wine shop; a nice first sight. We found a cosy little shop with 30 or 40 different local wines. We looked for a while, completely ignorant or what most of it was. Then I spotted a dessert wine which looked interesting. The owner picked up on our interest and offered us a taste. We were happy to accept. There were three different wines, each with a very different taste, and they were only produced in batches of 800 bottles per year. We couldn't decide if we preferred the first or third, both were amazing, but we agreed that the second was not very nice. We compromised and bought a bottle of each of the nice ones. The owner advised that we
use the wines as a sauce for vanilla ice cream. We got chatting with him and he suggested that we go to Darling for the flowers. It had never occurred to me that people would travel just to see flowers.
After the very pleasurable experience of the wine shop, the rest of the farm stall was a bit disappointing. The bread didn't look great so we opted for a huge scone each. Mine was a white one which was really dry and not at all pleasant to eat. Lindsey's was a kind of malted cake which was not fully cooked and very very sweet. Overall, not the best lunch.
We got back on the open road and soon reached Saldanha, at the top of Saldanha Bay. On the road into Saldanha there was a fascinating building which looked like a child had constructed it out of blocks - there were lots of cubic, cylindrical and wedge-shaped elements, higgledy-piggledy arranged. From a distance it looked like a theme park. It turned out to be a steel works. The strange thing was that it managed to be both extremely ugly and quite beautiful at the same time.
was a disappointment. It is very industrialised and there is little attractive there. We went to the beach which was a pretty sweep of sand and blue water... if you ignored the factories on the far shore. We couldn't stay on the beach because of a rancid smell so we quickly got back into the car and drove away.
Pressed for time, we had to leave some of our proposed destinations, for example Langebaan for next time. Our next target was Darling. As we drove we made lots of jokes about going to "a darling little town called Darling, my darling". I would say you had to be there, but they weren't particularly funny even if you were. What was more interesting was the landscape which was transformed before us. We only had to travel a couple of kilometres inland before we noticed that the grass was thick and a rich green colour. The sand-dunes had given way to fertile land which was being used to the full. Very quickly trees started appearing. The whole area was beautiful and well kept. The contrast with the National Park was stark.
We pulled into Darling and the first thing we
saw was a cafe called the Marmalade Cat. This was a good opportunity to stop for a coffee and cake. The cakes, which looked so good, were disappointing but the coffee was good. The Marmalade Cat is part of a set of shops owned by one very enterprising woman with interests in food, antiques and clothes. The antique shop was particularly interesting, though as travellers we weren't interested in encumbering ourselves with purchases. We got talking to one of the staff and she was telling us about the flowers in Darling. We were a bit too early as most of the spring flowers were not out yet but we were advised of a place we could see them. We set off looking but didn't find it. We had run out of time so we headed back, a bit disappointed, but with a desire to return. After all we hadn't yet seen the brewery or the sweet factory!
The traffic home was dreadful and by the time we got back to Cape Town the sun was going down. It had been a day with several disappointments but also some real highlights. We'd had a long drive but we we're glad
to have seen more of the wonders of the Western Cape.
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